MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker refused to take a position Tuesday on the Trump administration's policy of separating families after illegal border crossings and ignored calls to pull Wisconsin National Guard troops off the southern border.
His refusal comes as some other Republican governors have declined to send or are withdrawing National Guard troops from the area amid criticism of the policy.
Democrats have criticized Walker over his decision to honor a request from Arizona officials and deploy Wisconsin National Guard troops to that state to bolster border security. Democrats are accusing Walker of helping President Donald Trump separate children from parents.
"Wisconsin's National Guard troops are on administrative assignments, and the cost is being paid for by the federal government," said Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg. "The policy related to individuals seeking asylum is a federal policy, and those with concerns should contact their federal lawmakers."
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling reacted to Walker's statement on Twitter saying, "What a pathetic lack of leadership and compassion." Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly sent their second letter to Walker in as many days Tuesday demanding he recall Wisconsin's troops.
"When children are being ripped from their parents by the thousands, you need to draw a line in the sand and stand up against cruelty," the letter said.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Black Earth Democrat, visited the Texas border over the weekend to see the situation himself. He issued a statement Tuesday saying Walker's decision to send troops to region makes him complicit in a humanitarian crisis.
"Gov. Walker is abandoning the family values he claims to have," Pocan said.
A number of governors have recalled their National Guard troops from the southern border, including Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, another Republican, has refused to send troops from his state.
While Walker tried to sidestep the issue, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson said he supported a bill from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz that would keep families together and speed up court proceedings for those attempting to enter the country to no more than 14 days.
"As a father I feel great concern any time I see a child crying out of fear or desperation, anywhere in the world," Nicholson said.
Nicholson has been endorsed by Cruz in the GOP primary where he faces state Sen. Leah Vukmir.
Vukmir was asked in an interview on WISN-TV on June 10 about separating families at the border.
"I believe that we are a nation of laws and we have to stand up and uphold those laws," she said. "There is a process that has to be upheld."
But on Tuesday, Vukmir issued a statement saying, "Of course families shouldn't be separated." Vukmir said Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, told her the Senate could act as soon as next week "on a fix to address this problem right away."
But Johnson said on WISN-TV on Sunday that there was "fair warning" about the consequences of trying to seek asylum.
"You are committing a crime; we are going to prosecute you. When you start prosecuting someone like that, you separate them from their loved ones," Johnson said.
Johnson's spokesman said Tuesday that Johnson "is working with his colleagues to find a legislative solution to this issue that keeps families together and does not encourage additional illegal immigration."
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who will face either Nicholson or Vukmir in November, has been staunchly against Trump's policy calling it "inhumane."
"Families are being torn apart at our border," she said on Twitter. "I'm outraged."
This version of the story corrects the day of the Vukmir interview to June 10 from Sunday.